CAIRO — The Islamic State extremist group said on Monday that it blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, claiming it was connected to Israel.
Security sources earlier said the pipeline hit was a domestic one that connects to a power station in el-Arish, powering homes and factories in central Sinai. No casualties were reported.
Masked gunmen drove a four-wheel drive before detonating explosives in the attack, carried out around 80 kilometers west of the provincial capital El-Arish, the sources told AFP.
Some media reports in Egypt and Israel said, however, that the section of pipeline hit was part of Israel’s Leviathan offshore field that connects the two countries — claims denied to AFP by the Leviathan consortium.
But in a statement posted on its Telegram chat groups, IS said “caliphate soldiers targeted… the natural gas line linking the Jews and the apostate Egyptian government.”
It claimed that the section of the pipeline hit was in the Sinai village of Al Teloul and that several explosive devices were used to blow it up, causing “material damage.”
Last week, the jihadist group encouraged its fighters to launch attacks against Israel as part of a “new phase” of its operations.
Israel began pumping natural gas to Egypt for the first time earlier this month under a $15 billion, 15-year landmark deal to liquefy it and re-export it to Europe.
Egypt’s petroleum ministry did not react to a request for comment on Monday after IS claimed responsibility.
One of the two offshore fields managed by Israeli and American firms in the deal, Leviathan is estimated to hold 535 billion cubic meters (18.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate.
Egypt has previously exported gas to Israel but land sections of the export pipeline were targeted multiple times by Sinai militants in 2011 and 2012.
It hopes the recently inked deal will position it to become a regional gas hub.
The country has for years been fighting a hardened insurgency in North Sinai that escalated after the military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests.
In February 2018, the army and police launched a nationwide operation against militants focused on North Sinai.